Saturday, 7 September 2013

Why a moratorium on road spending is needed: train crashes due to rotting timber

At the very time when a government that says it will only fund roads and not public transport is being elected, I found a piece of news that makes already decisive calls for damnation of six decades of freeway-based transport policies even more decisive.

This week’s Time magazine has shown that a train crash on Perth’s Joondalup line last Tuesday was due to an infestation of millipedes, which caused the train to slip. Whilst this August has been considering global warming’s disastrous effect on Perth’s climate relatively wet (the wettest for nine years) it is as shown below still not nearly so wet as the Augusts of 1900, 1903, 1909, 1913, 1915, 1920, 1939, 1942, 1945, 1955 or 1963.
A selection of August rainfall total maps for Australia, illustrating how dry August 2013 was in southwestern Australia vis-à-vis the wettest Augusts before anthropogenic global warming took control of the climate.
There is no doubt that wet weather in the 1960s and 1974 would have created much more climatically favourable conditions for millipedes than exist today. Millipedes lack a waterproof skin and depend on moist conditions to survive, so there must be other reasons why they are thriving now (though 2013 is the first year since 2008 when any month in Perth’s historic rainy season has been above the virgin mean rainfall).

The culprit, as with so many quality problems on Australia’s railways, has to be money wasted on freeway building. It is bad for railways’ quality because wasting money on roads diverts passengers - the source of revenue - away from essential maintenance of railways, not to mention the limited supply of public money.

Railways, contrary to popular perception and governmental philosophy, are a vital resource for Australia. The extreme age and low fertility of the continent’s soils requires an exceptionally low-energy lifestyle that needs for sustainability to be based on rail transport to the exclusion of road or air, although the latter two are much more politically viable. Rail transport is also exceptionally suited to Australia’s flat terrain.

For this reason, Australia’s needs to place a moratorium on new roads until all operational railways are repaired fully. Poor quality of railways in other parts of Australia has been well-documented and even a temporary moratorium on road wastage (which would be as unacceptable to those who pull the strings as the uncompromising permanent moratorium I have long advocated) would be a great help if the money saved Australia’s valuable railways from becoming totally decrepit.

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